Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

After effort to raise gas tax fails, Pasco County commissioners put off new road projects

NEW PORT RICHEY — Potholes will still get patched and dirt roads will get regraded, even though Pasco County commissioners rejected an increase in the gasoline tax earlier this month.

But 12 road projects will get postponed or moved off of the county's 15-year plan altogether.

"This is going to be a mess," County Commissioner Pat Mulieri lamented Tuesday when she learned that improvements to Twenty Mile Level Road, from County Road 54 to Collier Parkway, were cut from the plan.

That's why staff proposed increasing the tax, Deborah Bolduc, program administrator for engineering services, reminded the commissioners.

Also on the chopping block were Chancey Parkway, from Fox Ridge to Morris Bridge Road; Collier Parkway, from Parkway Boulevard to Ehren Cutoff; Trinity Boulevard, from Little Road to State Road 54; and County Line Road North, from East Road to Springtime Street.

Delayed projects included the Zephyrhills Bypass Extension, phases 3 and 4, which run from west of River Glen Boulevard to west of Dean Dairy Road; CR 54, from SR 56 to Progress Parkway Boulevard; Decubellis Road, from west of Starkey Boulevard to south of Town Center Road; Starkey Boulevard, from River Crossing Boulevard to Decubellis Road; Decubellis Road, from Little Road to Starkey Boulevard, and Moon Lake Road, from Decubellis Road to SR 52.

Commissioners swallowed the bitter pill, but took comfort in the fact that funding methods would be discussed again.

"We haven't given up on the capital plan," Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein said. The county also is set to re-examine mobility fees, which are charged to new construction to help pay for transportation caused by growth. However, it may have to revisit its policy of not charging the fees in west or south Pasco.

Gas tax increases may be considered each year. But they require a "supermajority," or greater than a simple majority, for approval. Commissioners Jack Mariano and Henry Wilson Jr. opposed this year's proposal to raise gas taxes by 5 cents a gallon. The county already levies 7 cents per gallon.

In pressing for the increase, staff said that money for streetlights, mowing and repairs dwindled because of budget cuts and homeowners' failure to pay residential street-paving charges.

But now, the reallocation of gas taxes results in a $4.7 million budget for road maintenance.

Commission Chairman Ted Schrader warned that continuing not to increase revenue will result in hazardous conditions.

"We have to maintain what we have," he said.

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